On June 19, South Australia will lift more COVID-19 restrictions, allowing up to 75 people per room at a venue, as long as the 4m2 rule is maintained. Premier Marshall told us at today’s press conference that the “last date of a confirmed community transmission case in SA goes way back to the 20th of March”1 – almost 12 weeks ago. Yet, dance studio owners across the state are still only allowed to have 10 dancers per class. There’s been no advice as to when these restrictions will be lifted, even though Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia are already safely holding classes of 20, and Victoria can hold classes of children with no size limit from June 21, with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all four of these states.
When asked at the same press conference why dance classes can’t have more than 10 participants, SA Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier cited “a very high transmission rate in a Zumba class”1. But why are children’s dance classes being likened to Zumba? The case Dr Spurrier is referring to was a training event for Zumba-like instructors in South Korea on February 152. The adults were doing high intensity fitness together for four hours2 in a non-COVID safe environment, before social distancing was imposed in South Korea on March 213.
A ballet class for children usually runs from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half, which is a much shorter time frame, and the class is for a younger, less susceptible demographic. All studios in South Australia have strict COVID-safe rules in place, including social distancing and exhaustive cleaning regimes.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee continues to note that there is “very limited evidence of transmission between children; population screening overseas has shown very low incidence of positive cases in school-aged children,”4 and Premier Marshall previously told us that when looking at statistics for SA during the peak of cases, “there was not a single example of student-to-student transmission, and there was not a single example of student-to-teacher transmission.”5 Therefore, there is no reason to keep dance school classes capped at ten students when primary and secondary schools are open with no social distancing or class size restrictions at all.
Dance classes and fitness classes are currently being held for children within schools all across South Australia, and in week seven of the term, there still hasn’t been one outbreak of the virus in the state, let alone an outbreak traced to children in schools. Children are safely playing and dancing together every day without any social distancing rules at school, so why can’t they dance together at their ballet studio? South Australians can have 75 people in their homes for private parties and gatherings, yet more than 10 children can’t gather together to learn tap dance while abiding by strict COVID-safe rules in a large, clean environment? This is ludicrous and inconsistent.
South Australia has had zero cases of the virus for weeks, so comparing the safety of dance classes in South Australia with Zumba in South Korea during its outbreak is not a fair comparison. At the aforementioned Zumba event, eight adult participants came to the training day with the virus2 and didn’t socially distance, causing the outbreak. If we have zero cases and COVID-safe rules in place, how would South Australia have a similar outcome?
The dance industry has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 restrictions. Dance studios are often small family-run businesses, and classes under 20 are simply not financially viable for many. If you feel that class limits should be lifted, please email, call and social media message Dr Nicola Spurrier and Steven Marshall, as well as your local MP. These restrictions for our industry are unfair and not scientifically justified. Share this article and spread the word about these draconian restrictions.
A petition has also just started. Sign it here: www.change.org/p/steven-marshall-mp-change-restrictions-for-dance-yoga-pilates-calisthenics-and-gym-classes-for-sa
By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.